The Eclipse of Egypt For the first 2000 years of human history, Africa — and Egypt in particular — was the vortex of world politics. Today Africa is militarily a void. Its native population borders on savagery in many areas. Its culture is universally primitive. Egypt and Ethiopia — once the world's leaders — are today backward, unprogressive nations.
Numerous answers have been offered. None of them is the key to the sudden decline of Egypt and of Africa.
Answer in Ezekiel The answer to the riddle of the Dark Continent lies in the book of Ezekiel, in a little-understood prophecy. Before revealing its significance, one primary fact of geography and history must be noted. The contact of Africa with the ancient Near East always passed through Egygt, or its domains. The valley of the Nile led to the heart of Africa. To cut off Africa from the influences of civilization, only one land had to be destroyed — Egypt
Now to consider the prophecy of Ezekiel — and its historical import for today. It is found in Ezekiel 29, specifically verses 8-16:
"Therefore thus saith the Lord God: Behold, I will bring a sword upon thee, and will cut off from thee man and beast. And the land of Egypt shall be desolate and waste, and they shall know that I am the Lord: because he hath said: The river is mine, and I have made it. Therefore, behold, I am against thee, and against thy rivers, and I will make the land of Egypt utterly waste and desolate, from Migdol to Syene even unto the border of Ethiopia. No foot of man shall pass through it, nor foot of beast shall pass through it, neither shall it be inhabited forty years. And I will make the land of Egypt desolate in the midst of the countries that are desolate, and her cities among the cities that are laid waste shall be desolate forty years: and I will scatter the Egyptians among the nations, and will disperse them through the countries. For thus saith the Lord God: At the end of forty years will I gather the Egyptians from the peoples whither they were scattered and I will turn the captivity of Egypt, and will cause them to return into the land of Pathros, into the land of their origin: and they shall be there a lowly kingdom. It shall be the lowliest of the kingdoms, neither shall it any more lift itself up above the nations; and I will diminish them, that they shall no more rule over the nations. And it shall be no more the confidence of the house of Israel, bringing iniquity to remembrance, when they turn after them and they shall know that I am the Lord God."
Historians insist this prophecy was never fulfilled. They find no monumental evidence in Egypt that the country was without inhabitant forty long years. Of course not! There was not a single human being living in Egypt to record it — nor any wild animal: And what Egyptian would want to record it upon return from forty years' exile?
When was this prophecy fulfilled? and by whom? About the year 570 a message from God was sent to Ezekiel. It is found in Ezekiel chapters 29 and 30. In this divine message the frightful events to befall Egypt are further amplified:
"Behold, I will give the land of Egypt unto Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon; and he shall carry off her abundance, and take her spoil, and take her prey; and it shall be the wages for his army. I have given him the land of Egypt ..." (Ezek. 29:19-20).
Chapter 30:10-12 makes it even more emphatic.
"Thus saith the Lord God: I will also make the multitude of Egypt to cease, By the hand of Nebuchadrezzar king of Babylon. He and his people with him, the terrible of the nations, Shall be brought in to destroy the land; And they shall draw their swords against Egypt, And fill the land with the slain. And I will make the rivers dry, And will give the land over into the hand of evil men; And I will make the land desolate, And all that is therein, by the hand of strangers: I the Lord have spoken it."
The military power that overthrew Egypt was from Babylon. Its king, Nebuchadnezzar, carried the Egyptians captive. But man's power alone could not have wrought what befell Africa. Forty long years following the enslavement of the Egyptians God sent a terrible drought on East Africa. Normal rains ceased. No water flowed in the Nile. The land dried up. Wild beasts could not even survive in the parched soil of Egypt.
All this occurred at the time the remainder of the world was enjoying the Golden Age of human civilization. Cut off from direct contact with Europe and Asia, the native populations stagnated, then degenerated. Never again was Africa able to catch up with the world. It was the eclipse of Africa.
To cover up the humiliating defeat at the hands of Babylon, the Egyptian priests later invented the story that Egypt was never more prosperous than during these 40 years! Yet archaeologically the period in Egypt is a total blank. A few remains have been attributed to this period — a dated grave here and there. But they were only late reburials of those who died abroad in captivity and whose families could afford the expense.
Historians have mistakenly taken the Egyptian priests at their word. They think they find supporting evidence in the rule of Pharaoh Amasis on the Isle of Cyprus. Without exception every ancient history text portrays Egypt militarily strong during this period. Amasis is acclaimed as the builder of an empire that included Cyprus, while Nebuchadnezzar was limited to the mainland. No one, it seems, has ever noticed that Amasis was sent into exile to Cyprus by Nebuchadnezzar's command!
The only document to record the total destruction of Egypt was discovered in 1878. In that year a mutilated cuneiform cylinder was discovered, disclosing an event of Nebuchadnezzar's thirty-seventh year. It was purchased by the British Museum. The fragmentary remains are difficult to translate. The record is cast in the form of a plaintive prayer from Nebuchadnezzar to Merodach, god of Babylon.
"My enemies thou usedst to destroy; thou causedst my heart to rejoice ... in those days thou madest my hands to capture; thou gavest me rest; ... thou causedst me to construct; my kingdom thou madest to increase ..."
Clearly something is wrong with Nebuchadnezzar. Though he began the Egyptian campaign with brilliant success, he did not continue on the throne to see it completed. He became insane. His generals continued the efforts as the document proves:
"... the 37th year of Nebuchadnezzar, king tof Bab- ... Egypt to deliver a battle .... -sis of Egypt called up his army .... distant regions which are amidst the sea ... many ... who are in Egypt ... carrying weapons, horses and ... he called up to assist him" (Compare "Egypt and Babylon" by George Rawlinson, pages 90-91 with Pritchard's "Ancient Near Eastern Texts", page 308). The remainder of the cylinder is unintelligible.
The 37th year of Nebuchadnezzar was 568-567. The campaign in Egypt thus occupied the space of three full years — 570-567. In the calendar year 567-566 the destruction of Egypt was complete. Amasis was sent into exile in Cyprus. Forty years later he returned to Egypt with his people, under the scrutiny of the Persians. Amasis was succeeded by Psamtik II. His attempted rebellion brought the Persian king Cambyses to Egypt. Psamtik II offered his daughter in marriage to the Persian. The request was rebuffed. The royal dynasty of Egypt was overthrown. In 525 the Egyptian royal blood perished.
Persian Kings of Egypt Very little of the history of Egypt is known for the next century and a quarter. Most of what has been preserved comes from Greek sources. The chronology of the period is correctly preserved by Manetho. It is in full agreement with the Persian records. Minor controversial details that do not pertain to Egypt, but to Persia, will be treated there.
Manetho's history of Persian dominion begins thus: "Cambyses in the fifth year of his kingship over the Persians became king of Egypt." The fifth year was 525-524, spring-to-spring reckoning in Persian annals. Cambyses reigned over Egypt three years, according to Eusebius' extract, 525-522, EXCLUSIVE reckoning. He was followed by the Magi who seized the throne and reigned for 7 months in 522.
The account of Africanus differs considerably and has never been understood by historians. He records that Cambyses reigned over Egypt 6 years, INCLUSIVE reckoning, 527-522. The 8-year reign of Cambyses in Persia extentled from 529-521. Africanus reckons to the end of Cambyses' eighth year (December 31, 522 according to Egyptian reckoning) even though the Persian monarch died early in the eighth year, March 522. But what of the date 527 for the beginning of his reign in Egypt? The only possible answer is that Africanus — and Manetho — considered the dominion of the Persian king in Egypt as beginning in the year that the Egyptian exiles returned. Africanus thus is a witness to the fulfillment of Ezekiel's prophecy of the 40-years' exile — 567-527! The kings of Persia, including illegitimate rulers (in parentheses), are now listed in chart form in the traditional Greek spelling. The dates are according to the Egyptian calendar, which regularly preceded the Persian by three to four months.
The specific dates for the commencement of the Egyptian years may be found in "Manuel d'Histoire de Genealogie et de Chronologie de tous les Etats du Globe", by A.-M.-H.-J. Stokvis, vol 1.
Dynasty XXVII — Lengths of Reign Dates
Kings of Persia (Egyptian reckoning)
Cambyses 6 (A) Jan. 2, 527-Dec. 31, 522
3 (E) 525-522 (Conquest to
(Magi 7 months 522)
Darius 36 Jan. 1, 521-Dec. 22, 486
Xerxes "the Great" 21 Dec. 23, 486-Dec. 16, 465
(Artabanus 7 months 465)
Artaxerxes 41 (A) Dec. 17, 465-Dec. 6, 424
40 (E) 465-425
(Xerxes (II) 2 months 424)
(Sogdianus 7 months 424)
Darius (II) 19 Dec. 7, 424-Dec. 1, 405
Egypt Rebels Over 120 years elapsed since Persian armies marched into Egypt. Darius was now dead. Smoldering revolt suddenly flared into the open. Though Persian authority was tacitly acknowledged for a few years, Egypt became virtually independent. Persian and mercenary armies were sent against the land of the Nile. Unsuccessful attempts followed one another until 343, when Egyptian forces collapsed before a determined Persian onslaught.
The history of this fast-moving period begins with Dynasty XXVIII of Sais. This dynasty — if it even deserved that designation — consisted of one king, Amyrteos. His reign lasted only 6 years, 405-399. He was overthrown by pretenders from the city of Mendes, whose rulers constituted Dynasty XXIX.
None of these dynasties were of ancient royalty. They were largely of prominent families, often of foreign descent.
The duration of Dynasty XXIX was only 20 years, after which it, too, was overthrown. The evidence of Manetho, as preserved by Africanus, Eusebius and Syncellus is as follows.
In the Armenian version of Eusebius Muthes precedes Nepherites. Eusebius also assigns 13 years to Achoris in the Armeinan, which is the total length of his reign.
Dynasty XXIX Lengths of Eusebius Lengths of
of Mendes Reign Reign
Nepherites 6 Nepherites 6
Achoris 13 Achoris 13 or
12 (in the Canon)
Psammuthls 1 Psammuthis 1
Nepherltes (II) 4 months Nepherites (II) 4 months
The real puzzle that has confounded historians of this period is found in the Demotic Chronicle. The Chronicle places the name Psammuthis before Achoris, in apparent opposition to Manetho. The apparent contradiction would vanish if each writer were to be carefully compared with the other. Manetho and the Chronicle both preserve part of the facts: neither preserves all the details. But how could Achoris precede Psammuthis and yet have Psammuthis precede Achoris?
The key is found in Eusebius' Canon, which contains one version of Manetho not found elsewhere. The Canon notes that Achoris reigned 12 years before Psammuthis. As Achoris reigned 13 years altogether, the final year must have succeeded the one-year reign of Psammuthis. That is, Achoris was deposed, and returned to the throne a year later.
Remarkably, the unnamed king who follows Nepherites and precedes Psammuthis in the Demotic Chronicle is said to have been "deposed." Psammuthis usurped his throne one year. Then Achoris appears followed by Nepherites II. These details may be placed in chart form as follows:
It is to be noted that Muthis succeeds Psammuthis and reigns during the same calendar year that Achoris returns to the throne. This is made clear by the fact that his name is left out in Africanus' account in which Achoris is assigned 13 years. Eusebius, in one case, adds Muthis to his list in which Achoris is assigned only 12 years.
Names of Kings of Lengths of Reign Dates
Dynasty XXIX of Mendes
Nepherites 6 399-393
Achoris 12 393-381
Psammuthis 1 381-380
Achoris (again) 1 (the 13th 380-379
Muthis (jointly with Achoris) 1 380-379
Nepherites (II), son of 4 months 379-378
Why the years commencing in 381 suddenly became politically unstable will become apparent when unveiling the mystery of Dynasty XX of Thebes!
But to continue the history of Egypt with Africanus' epitome of Dynasty XXX of Sebennytus. (The monumental names are in parentheses.)
The Demotic Chronicle (IV, 14) assigns to Nekhtnebef a reign of 19 years — 380-361. This begins with the year that Achoris returned to power. In the previous line in the Demotic Chronicle a length of only 16 years is assigned — 377-361. What event occurred in the calendar year beginning 377 will be clarified by the history of Dynasty XX of Thebes!
Kings of Dynasty XXX Lengths of Reign Dates
Nectanebes (Nekhtnebef) 18 379-361
Teos (Takhos) 2 361-359
Nectanebos (Nekhtharehbe) 18 359-341
The account of Dynasty XXX found in Eusebius' Canon is the same as Africanus'. But in the Armenian Version of Eusebius and in Syncellus' account of Eusebius the following differences should be noticed.
This epitome of Manetho is chronologically abridged. But it does indicate major military or political events for the calendar years beginning in 371 and 351. The significance of the year beginning 371 again lies in the history of Dynasty XX of Thebes. In the calendar year beginning 351 an important invasion of Egypt was unsuccessfully attempted by the Persians ("Diodorus Siculus", XV, 40, 3) See also A. T. Olmstead's "History of the Persian Empire", revised edition — one of the most accurate texts covering this century of Egyptian quasi-independence.
Dynasty XXX of Sebennytus Lengths of Reign Dates
According to Eusebius
Nectanebis 10 371-361
Teos 2 361-359
Nectanebos 8 359-351
In 343 — in the sixteenth year of Nectanebos — a great Persian campaign against Egypt was mounted. The Delta soon fell. The Egyptian king fled to Ethiopia where he continued to exercise authority over Upper Egypt for another two years — to 341.
In 341 the last vestige of Egyptian independence vanished. The short-lived Persian dominion which followed constituted Dynasty XXXI.
The conquest of Egypt by Alexander the Great occurred in 332.
Persian Kings Lengths of Reign Dates
of Dynasty XXXI
Ochus 2 341-339
Arses 3 339-336
Darius 4 336-332
And Now Dynasty XX of Thebes The authority of Thebes over Egypt disappeared about 663 with the Assyrian conquest. For almost three centuries no native dynasty is known to have been centered in the ancient capital of Upper Egypt. Yet, according to Manetho and the archaeological record, Thebes was again to become the capital of Upper Egypt! Its rulers — including the famous Ramessids III to XI — constitute Dynasty XX.
The famous Papyrus Harris contains a historical record of the period immediately prior to the rise of Dynasty XX. It reads:
"The land of Egypt was cast aside with every man a law unto himself. They had no chief spokesman for many years previously up to other times. The land of Egypt consisted of officials and heads of villages, one slaying his fellows both high and low. Then other times came afterwards in the empty years, and a Syrian with them made himself prince. He set the entire land tributary under his sway. He united his companions and plundered their possessions. They made the gods like the people, and no offerings were presented in the temples." The king then claims: "He brought to order the entire land, which had been rebellious. He slew the disaffected of heart who had been in Egypt. He cleansed the great throne of Egypt .... He established the temples Pritchard's "Ancient Near Eastern Texts", page 260).
Here is an era of many "empty years" — with no native kings. Only officials and village headsmen. Foreign princes had Egypt in tribute. The religion of Egypt was suppressed; its temples bare. Not in all the history of Egypt had such a time occurred from the days of Nimrod to the Persian conquest! Even the Hyksos period had its own native kings ruling under the foreign Shepherd Princes. But here is a time when no native kings ruled.
Only one period in Egyptian annals corresponds to this tragic era — the time of the Persian conquest and dominion. Dynasty XX of Thebes therefore rose to power during the period of rebellion against Persia in the fourth century before the present era. Yet historians would place the dynasty nearly eight centuries earlier — in the time of the prophet Samuel and of king Saul!
The most famous king of Dynasty XX was Ramesses III. In his 8th year he fought a tremendous battle against invaders from Asia. These invaders are usually assumed to be Philistines. History texts claim that Ramesses' victory over the "Philistines" forced them to withdraw from Egypt and settle in Palestine, where they commenced their attacks against Israel in the time of Saul. This reconstruction of history is an utter fiction! Historians have willingly forgotten that the Philistines were already dwelling in Palestine in the days of Abram — over eight centuries before the kingship of Saul. "And Abraham sojourned in the land of the Philistines many days" (Genesis 21:34, also verse 32).
The invaders whom Ramesses III repelled in his eighth year were "sea peoples" — from the isles and coastlands of the northern Mediterranean. They were mercenary troops of a vast empire that ruled in Asia Minor and over Palestine. That was the Persian Empire — and its mercenaries were Greeks and their allies! The Egyptian word Haunebu, applied by Ramesses III to the northern sea peoples, is the very same word found on Egyptian monuments in reference to Greeks! (See E. Naville's "The Shrine of Saft el Henneh and the Land of Goshen" (1887), pages 6 ff.)
Ramesses III's invaders were crested soldiers. The Greeks were famous for their crested troops. Ramesses' enemies moved through Palestine. So did the Persian and Greek troops in 373. By contrast, there was no land invasion from Asia Minor through Palestine in the days of Samuel or Saul!
Ramesses defeated his enemies at the time of the rising Nile. The Persians and Greeks were defeated in 373 at the time of the Nile floods ("Diodorus Siculus", XV, 41-43). Ramesses III speaks of natural calamity and unrest in the isles of the sea peoples. In 373 the Greek isles were devastated with frightful earthquakes and floods, according to Diodorus and other ancient writers.
The dates of Ramesses III may now be established as follows:
His 8th year was 374-373, the year of his great victory. Ramesses also records victories in his 5th and 11th years over Libyan and other invaders. His 5th year began in 377, his 11th year in 371. Now turn to the account of Dynasty XXX. The year 377 marked the beginning of the 16 years assigned by the Demotic Chronicle to Nectanebes. The year 371 begins his 10-year reign according to Eusebius. Thus the reign of Ramesses III, with its records of major wars in Egypt, provides the clues for the unusual dates sometimes assigned to Dynasty XXX.
Ramesses III — 31 years — 381-350.
The father of Ramesses III is known to historians as Setnakhte. His highest regnal date found on the monuments is Year 2. His reign, of little historical significance, was at least extended over the years 383-381. It is highly probable that he reigned no longer than these two years. A war between the Persians and Egyptians was fought about years 385-383. As Setnakhte was famous as a general, it appears that he arose in power in Thebes following the repulse of the Persian armies. The ancestry of Setnakhte is unknown, though the family was probably Ethiopian in origin. Everywhere they mimicked the ways of the famous Ethiopian king Ramesses II — the Tarhakah of the Bible.
Manetho's transcribers provide no names for these kings, nor any individual lengths of reign. The only source of evidence is from the monuments and papyri. The unusual abundance of well-preserved papyri and monuments is another strong indication of the lateness of Dynasty XX. ("Egypt of the Pharaohs", Gardiner, page 299.) From these records the following information may be deduced.
The records of Ramesses VII and VIII are very obscure. There are no known dates for Usimare-akhenamun Ramesse (designated Ramesses VII in Bibl. Or., xiv, 138). A badly tattered document indicates that Ramesse-itamun-nutehekaon (VIII) reigned possibly 7 years. That his reign was PARALLEL with Ramesse IX is indicated by a papyrus discussed in "The Journal of Egyptian Archaeology", xi, 72-75 and xiv, 60.
Names of Kings of Known Lengths of Reign Resultant
Dynasty XX of Thebes Dates
Setnakhte 2 383-381
Ramesse-hekaon (III) 31 381-350
Ramesse-hekamae (IV) 6 350-344
Ramesse-Amenhikhopshef (v) 4 344-340
Nebmare Ramesse (VI) 7 340-333
Usimare-akhenamun Ramesse (VII) — —
Ramesse-itamun-nutehekaon (VIII) 7 333-326
Of far greater interest are the three succeeding Ramessides, listed and dated in the next chart. (A discussion of the dates follows.)
The Persian conquest of Egypt in 343 brought to power a collateral branch of the Ramessid family. Ramesses V was deprived of most royal prerogatives. (See page 297 of Gardiner's "Egypt of the Pharaohs".) In his place ascended Neferkare Ramesse, in whose latter years foreigners and sea peoples — Greeks! — were found in Thebes. The years of Ramesses IX disclose great unrest and serious unemployment — a result of the Persian conquest and the later penetration of the Greeks.
Neferkare Ramesse (IX) 17 343-326
Khepermare Ramesse (X) 3 326-323
Menmare Ramesse (XI) 27 — 323-296 —
Ramesses XI is famous for the controversial "Renaissance" — or rebirth of Egyptian influence — which commenced in his 19th year. The 19th year is 305-304 — the very year that Egypt became independent under Ptolemy I. The Renaissance or "renewal of birth" is the independence of Egypt under the Ptolemies'
Further, after year 17 of Ramesses XI there was a rebellion of Pinhasi in Upper Egypt coupled with a "war in the Northern District" (Lower Egypt). This struggle occurred before the Renaissance, hence in year 18. Year 18 of Ramesses XI was 306-305 — the year that Egypt was invaded — unsuccessfully — by Antigonus of Syria.
The remaining history of the petty rulers under the Ptolemies is exceedingly obscure — and historically of little value. Theban and Tanite royalty are known for several generations following the Ramessides. They are mistakenly labeled by historians as Dynasty XXI — but have nothing in common with the Tanite Dynasty XXI as found in Manetho. Most of their time was spent in rewraping the mummies of the ancient pharaohs. A much misunderstood monument is the Bubastite Portal at Karnak. Containing material pertaining to Dynasty XXII and built after the reign of Ramesses III, it is at times called upon to support a false early dating of Dynasty XX. The answer is quite simple. The inscriptions are late reproductions inscribed by Bubastite officials in honor of their early and famous kings — the Soshenks and the Osorkons. It was commonplace during the Persian and Greek period to revive the past.
With this chapter the restoration of Egyptian history is complete.